When Darren Calpin’s partner Sally Prentice fell pregnant in 2012, he decided to write a book about their experiences.
It was supposed to be a straightforward, diary-type account of pregnancy from a man’s point of view – but it didn’t turn out that way.
While attending what they expected to be a routine 20-week scan at Peterborough City Hospital, the couple, who live in Market Deeping, were given some worrrying news.
Darren, 41, said: “We went along expecting to find out the sex – which we did. We were having a girl and that was fantastic.
“But then the sonographer noticed something and looked a bit concerned. She thought there might be some fingers missing.
“She couldn’t be certain, so we were asked to go back in a week for another scan with a consultant.
“We went from thinking we were having an amazing time to, five minutes later, being on the floor. It was the longest week of our lives.”
After returning home in a state of shock, Darren and Sally did some online research and came across a condition called symbrachydactyly - which leaves babies with deformed or absent hands or limbs.
When they returned to the hospital a week later, the couple saw a consultant who thought he could see a thumb and three digits on the baby’s left hand. But it was difficult to get a full, clear picture.
Teacher Sally, 37, was referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, where she underwent further scans, but it was not until baby Ellie was born, in August 2013, that her parents knew exactly how her hand had developed.
She was born with a thumb, a forefinger and three nubbins of skin on her left hand. Her right hand was normal.
Nearly three years on, the energetic and independent-minded youngster has astonished her parents and medical staff with her progress.
Darren, a freelance commercial writer, said: “She has done far better than we could ever have dreamed - Ellie has adapted to everything life has thrown at her marvellously.
“She can do anything she wants and we are very proud of her. She may have tougher times as she gets older, possibly dealing with name-calling or bullying, but we’ll help her through all of that.
“I wouldn’t wish what we’ve been through on anyone, but there are people worse off than us, some of whom we have met locally in the past couple of years.”
Darren decided to use the experience, which he describes as “one hell of a rollercoaster ride” as the basis of an honest and heart-warming book covering everything from infertility fears and ectopic pregnancy scares to relationship wobbles and anxiety-ridden relatives which conspired to make the couple’s nine-month journey a more difficult one than most.
He added: “There must be thousands of pregnancy books written by women and for women. I wanted to counterbalance that with a male point of view. But I also wanted the book to provide hope to all those who feel worried after a 20-week scan which didn’t work out as they expected it to.
“There’s quite a bit of humour in it, despite the difficult subject.It wasn’t easy to write, but Sal and I really hope people will find it useful. It’s essential reading for fathers-to-be and curious expectant mothers.
“We are also keen to raise awareness of symbrachydactyly and make sure people going through similar experiences as us realise they are not alone.”
‘Expecting the Unexpected: One Man’s Journey Through a Most Eventful Pregnancy’ will soon be available to buy from Amazon and selected bookshops.
Darren has written it under the pseudonym ‘Ferrel E. Calpin’ – a play on words meaning ‘For Ellie Calpin’.